update deskSchools & Higher Education

Campus rally challenges Missouri award for photo of Shani Louk’s body

“Hamas terrorists wanted to show Shani Louk’s dead body as a prize, and the University of Missouri gave them a prize,” said organizer Daniel Swindell.

Shani Louk, University of Missouri Rally
A poster of Shani Louk, 22, who was murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Nova music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7, at a campus rally against an award presented by the University of Missouri for a photo of her body, April 5, 2024. Photo by Daniel Swindell.

A prestigious award given by the University of Missouri to a photojournalist who took an image depicting the half-naked body of Shani Louk, a 22-year-old Israeli murdered by Hamas terrorists at the Nova music festival in southern Israel on Oct. 7, has provoked pushback from Jewish and pro-Israel supporters.

Ali Mahmud, a freelancer for The Associated Press, was widely reported to have been embedded by the terrorist organization before the attacks.

Daniel Swindell, a pro-Zionist activist from Columbia, Mo., organized a rally on April 5 at the Donald W. Reynolds Institute Building on the MU campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia in central Missouri. “The institute is credited with giving the award, but the picture is decided by a panel of judges,” he told JNS.

Approximately 15 people participated, with some waving signs saying “Release the Hostages” and “We [heart] Israel.”

Swindell said he set up the campus protest “because the Hamas terrorists wanted to show Shani Louk’s dead body as a prize, and the University of Missouri gave them a prize.”

He also noted that in the caption used to describe the photo, “Hamas members are not described as ‘terrorists,’ but rather as ‘militants.’ The Hamas terrorists are almost described as if they are just regular soldiers in a combat zone instead of a group of Islamic terrorists who just massacred a bunch of innocent Jewish people.”

Rabbi Avraham Lapine, director of the Chabad Jewish Center of MU and Mid-Missouri, spoke at the demonstration. He explained his objections to the award in a letter to the editor published in Columbia Missourian, writing that the “Team Picture Story of the Year was awarded to a chilling image depicting a brutal act of terrorism, possibly taken by an accomplice of the terrorist himself.”

He continued: “Photographing or exposing the deceased is viewed as deeply disrespectful. By awarding an image that violates these principles, the Institute not only condones terrorism but also undermines core Jewish values sacred to Ms. Louk, re-victimizing her.”

Concluding, the rabbi urged civility, saying Louk’s family “deserves to have her memory honored with dignity and respect, focusing on the vibrant and compassionate person she was, rather than the brutality of her death and desecration of her body.”

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